jefferson's blood
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Answer: All of the above.

First Hand Accounts

·  In the 1850s Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Jefferson's grandson, told Henry S. Randall, an early Jefferson biographer, about the close resemblance of Sally Hemings's children to Thomas Jefferson. He said that all of Sally Hemings's children resembled Jefferson and that one of the boys resembled him "so closely that it was plain that they had his blood in his veins." He indicated that his mother thought so too. And, in Ohio in the 1840s, Eston Hemings, was described as bearing a "striking" resemblance to Jefferson.

·  John Hartwell Cocke wrote in his diary in 1853 and 1859 that Jefferson had a slave mistress. He was one of the founders and board members of the University of Virginia, and a frequent visitor to Monticello.

·  Sally Hemings's son Madison said that he was the son of Jefferson and gave details. In his memoir, he described his mother's stay in Paris: "Their stay (my mother's and Maria's) was about eighteen months. But during that time my mother became Mr. Jefferson's concubine, and when he was called home she was enceinte by him. He desired to bring my mother back to Virginia with him but she demurred. In France, she was free, while if she returned to Virginia she would be re-enslaved. So she refused to return with him. To induce her to do so he promised her extraordinary privileges, and made a solemn pledge that her children should be freed at the age of twenty-one years. In consequence of his promise, on which she implicitly relied, she returned with him to Virginia. Soon after their arrival, she gave birth to a child, of whom Thomas Jefferson was the father." [Madison Hemings, Pike County (Ohio) Republican, 1873.]

·  Israel Jefferson, a former slave who lived at Monticello, corroborated Madison Hemings's story. He told an Ohio newspaper man that Sally Hemings was Jefferson's "concubine" and that Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston were Jefferson's children. [Israel Jefferson's recollections, Pike County (Ohio) Republican, 1873.]



Oral history accounts

·  Excerpt from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Research Committee Report on the Jefferson-Hemings relationship:

"Despite a climate of hostility and denial, Madison Hemings's descendants carefully passed their family history of descent from Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson from generation to generation, often at important moments associated with rites of passage, family pride, or American history. Eston Hemings's descendants lived as white people and did not acknowledge Sally Hemings in their oral history, in order to sever their connection with African Americans. They did, however, pass on in their family tradition that they were related to Thomas Jefferson."


Historical Documents

·  Newspaper article. Journalist James Callender reported the relationship in 1802 in the Richmond Recorder.

· The will of Thomas Jefferson. Sally's sons, Madison and Eston Hemings, were freed by Jefferson's will in March 1826. Also freed by his will were: Sally's relative Burwell Colbert, who was Jefferson's personal valet; John Hemings, Sally's younger brother and the master carpenter at Monticello; Joe Fossett, Sally's relative and master ironworker at Monticello. Jefferson not only freed these five slaves who were blood relations of Sally, but petitioned the Virginia legislature to allow them to remain in the state. Sally Hemings was not freed by Jefferson's will, however, she received her freedom two years later.



DNA testing

Dr. Eugene Foster, a retired pathologist from Tufts University, Boston, performed a DNA test that centered on the Y-chromosome. Since certain features of the Y-chromosome are passed down from father to son without much change over time, the Y-chromosome can be used to determine paternity.

However, Jefferson had no acknowledged male descendants so it was necessary to examine the DNA of his closest relatives. Jefferson's uncle, Field Jefferson, had sons and his descendants are alive today. Five of them agreed to have their blood drawn so it could be compared with the blood of the male descendants of Sally's son, Eston Hemings.

The results of Dr. Foster's study, published in Nature (November 5, 1998), found a match (see chart) on the Y-chromosome between the descendants of Eston Hemings and Field Jefferson. Scientists note that there is less than a one percent probability that this is due to chance. The study does not prove that Eston Hemings's father was Thomas Jefferson, only that Eston's father was a Jefferson. Short of digging up Thomas Jefferson's body, and doing direct DNA analysis on the tissues, the issue will remain ambiguous. [However, a separate study of Jefferson's Monticello visits finds they coincide so closely to Hemings's pregnancies, that even without DNA, the probability of his being the father is 90 percent or more. With DNA, it is far higher, perhaps 99 percent --not proven, certainly, but as close to proven as most history ever gets.]

Foster's findings also gave the lie to more than a hundred years of historians' claims that one of Jefferson's nephews, Peter or Samuel Carr, fathered Hemings's children: DNA testing excluded both of the Carrs from the list of possible fathers.



Evaluation of Jefferson's schedule and travels

·  Jefferson, who traveled widely, has been found to have been present at Monticello nine months before the birth of each of Sally Hemings's children. Fraser D. Neiman, director of archaeology at Monticello produced a statistical study of Jefferson's presence at Monticello and Sally Hemings's likely conception periods. The study was published in William and Mary Quarterly, January 2000.

·  Excerpt from Fawn Brodie's Thomas Jefferson's Unknown Grandchildren. (pg. 30):

"Sally bore two daughters, Harriet and Edy, in 1795 and 1796, when Jefferson was in temporary political retirement at Monticello following his resignation as Washington's Secretary of State. Edy died in 1796 and Harriet in 1797. A second son, Beverly, was born in 1798, and another daughter, also named Harriet, in 1801. Two sons, Madison and Eston, were born in 1805 and 1808, respectively.... There is documentary evidence that all these children, save Tom, fathered in Paris, were conceived when Jefferson was at Monticello. We know from Jefferson's farm book that Sally conceived no children when Jefferson was not there. And there is subtle evidence in many of Jefferson's letters attesting to the continuing warmth and satisfaction of his life at Monticello, where, he wrote: "all is love and peace."



2. DNA tests prove 100 percent that Thomas Jefferson was the father of at least one of Sally Hemings's children.

·  True
·  False

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